Man accused of leading Pennsylvania state police trooper on high-speed chase on Parkway East

PITTSBURGH — A man is facing charges after Pennsylvania state police said he led a trooper on a high-speed chase on Interstate-376 Wednesday night.

According to the criminal complaint, the state trooper was driving on the Parkway East in the left lane when a white Mini Cooper coupe drove past. The driver had his arm extended out the window and was flipping the trooper off.

Court documents said the trooper tried to pace the Mini Cooper, but it was going so fast and weaving through heavy traffic on the Fort Pitt Bridge, which made it an unsafe environment.

Upon seeing how fast and reckless the driver was being, which accounted for several vehicle code violations, the trooper turned his emergency lights on and signaled the car to stop, the criminal complaint said.

The Mini Cooper continued at over 115 miles per hour, weaving in and out of heavy traffic and forcing several vehicles off the side of the road.

The trooper let dispatch know of the pursuit and lost the Mini Cooper near the Squirrel Hill Tunnel after chasing it for five miles through heavy traffic and hitting speeds in excess of 120 miles per hour.

Just before midnight, Pittsburgh police found the Mini Cooper at the intersection of Murray Avenue and Phillipps Avenue. They also had the driver detained.

Upon arriving at the scene, the trooper positively identified the driver by the shirt he was wearing and escorted him to the back of the patrol car in handcuffs.

The driver was later identified as Derek Wassel, 22. He was taken to the state police barracks in Pittsburgh while charges were prepared.

According to the criminal complaint, Wassel kicked state police property across the patrol room floor while in custody at the barracks. He also used his shoulder to turn off the lights.

Wassel is charged with causing or risking catastrophe, fleeing or attempting to elude a police officer, disorderly conduct, obedience to traffic-control devices and several other traffic violations.

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